Most people imagine that once you are homeless it is the little luxuries you miss the most as you are unable to afford them, in fact it is your sense of pride you miss the most as it is pride that you can no longer afford to keep. That is why when I was offered help from a most unexpected source, at a time when I was at my lowest point, I took a chance and it changed my life entirely.
I had been living rough for almost three months by this point and the tyres on my car needed to be replaced so that it could pass an MOT test but despite the fact that I had been working overtime and had elected to buy part worn tyres I only just had enough money to cover the bill. It took my entire week’s income to pay for the tyres and MOT; I felt that I had no choice but to pay it as I couldn’t risk having the car taken away and me being prosecuted; I needed to keep the car on the road as it provided both shelter at night and transport during the day in order to get to work and interviews. Unfortunately this meant I was reduced to bin diving to feed myself; I also had to be more careful with fuel as I couldn’t afford to get any more until the next pay day and so I would leave the car parked somewhere safe and then go into town on foot to see what I could scrounge from the bins and pick up every coin, no matter how small, that I saw in case I needed to get fuel. By this point I no longer cared if anyone saw me – it was far more embarrassing to not be able to pay for something than it was if someone saw me picking copper coins up from the side of the road.
Unfortunately the weather was awful, it had been raining heavily for 3 days straight and I was frequently returning to the car cold, wet and hungry. The lack of decent food didn’t help; each evening it became harder and harder to find the energy to make it into town to find food. It was on the fourth evening of that week that I hit the kerb – literally. I was feeling quite poorly as I was full of a cold virus and had planned to skip going into town but the rain had stopped at last so I decided to go in despite feeling low. Unfortunately the rain started up again on my way in and I got absolutely soaked. I had decided to turn around and head back to the car when I started to feel incredibly dizzy, I tried to make it to the other side of the road I was in the middle of crossing but ended up crashing to the ground in a faint. Thankfully the driver of the car that was coming towards me had seen me floundering and slowed right down. I don’t remember much else of what happened; I remember a lot of voices, an ambulance, someone having a conversation with the paramedics and then the next thing I knew I was on a trolley in A&E.
I was seen by a Doctor who repeatedly asked me if I had taken any illegal substances, I told her I had just felt faint and that I was not a drug user but she insisted on performing a blood test to verify that I was telling the truth. Whilst waiting for the results to come back a nurse came by to ask about next of kin, I explained my current predicament and told her that I would just have to get a bus back to my car once discharged. She was horrified by what I told her and insisted that I give her my parents contact details as they would surely change their minds about taking me in if they knew what had happened. I refused to give her any contact details as I knew they would get in touch with my husband. The nurse offered to get the police involved to deal with my husband but I declined this also; I explained to her that I would get myself sorted but she didn’t seem too convinced.
A short time later my blood test results came back clear and I was told that I was ok to be discharged but they needed someone to come and collect me. I explained again that this wouldn’t be possible and that I would be ok on my own but they kept asking me for the name of someone to call. I got very distressed and burst into tears of frustration, at that point another nurse came over and said that she knew me, I didn’t know who she was at first but she told me that she was the cousin of an old school friend of mine. I was a little wary at first but then she told me her maiden name and I recognised her at once – from here on in I will refer to her as “N”. I explained what had happened and that I didn’t have anyone that I could call or anywhere to go and she offered to give me a room for the night, at first I said no as I didn’t want to impose, particularly not on someone I hardly knew, but she insisted it would be ok and that she considered me to be family on account of my close friendship with her cousin. I agreed but told her that I would leave her in peace the next day, she laughed and said we would talk about it in the morning. I had to wait for her shift to end before I could leave but she took me to the canteen and gave me a plate of food and warned me not to wolf it down in case I was sick.
When we got to her house she made up a sofa bed for me in the living room and I fell asleep immediately. I slept all the way through until 2pm the next day – I’d had about 14 hours of solid sleep. When I woke up I heard voices in the kitchen and was terrified at first but then N came through and said her brother and my old school friend had come over to see me as they had a proposition for me.
I was very nervous about speaking to them as I had fallen out of touch with my friend, T, after my wedding and was worried that she would be angry with me. I had never met N’s brother, J, before and had no idea why he would be interested in speaking to me. They all came into the living room and sat around me, I felt like I was about to be interrogated. T spoke first – she said, “Well I never did like your choice of husband, I always thought he was a dick and I’m glad you’re away from him now but why didn’t you come to me and ask for help?” I started to cry as I explained that I had thought she wouldn’t want to know me anymore given that I had cut off contact with her after the wedding and that I didn’t feel I deserved her friendship anymore. T was fantastic, she told me that she knew what R had been like but also knew that I needed to see it for myself before she would be able to help me, she said she had been waiting to hear from me and was willing to help however she could. I felt completely overwhelmed and hugged her as hard as I could. J then introduced himself and explained that he wanted to offer his assistance with regards accommodation; he told me that he had been struggling to maintain his house due to ill health and had been having to rely on family to help him keep it clean for him as he had frequent spells of being bed-ridden. He offered me his spare bedroom in return for assistance with the housekeeping as this would alleviate the burden on his family.
At first I didn’t know what to say – he was a total stranger to me and quite a bit older than me, my first instinct was to wonder why he would want to do such a thing, after everything that had happened in my earlier years it was deeply ingrained in me to be suspicious of any offer of help and my mind was racing with the possibilities of what this would cost me. T then asked to have a word with me in private, J and N left the room and T said, “Listen up, J is a good guy – he is a genuinely devout Christian and an all-round gentleman. I strongly suggest you take him up on the offer as you will be doing both J and yourself a favour. I know you’ve been mucked about with that arse of a husband but J is not like that, I would trust him with my life and that is no word of a lie.” Despite my fears and misgivings I knew I could trust what T said and that it would be stupid of me to refuse a genuine offer of help and so I accepted but insisted that I give J some of my wages as rent money.
I moved into J’s spare room the next day and I am so glad I took a chance and accepted his offer of help, it came from out of nowhere – almost like someone sent me a guardian angel and changed my life forever.